Junta leader to hold peace talks with 10 ethnic groups

Military government spokesman Gen. Zaw Min Tun appears Thursday in Naypyidaw on MRTV.
Military government spokesman Gen. Zaw Min Tun appears Thursday in Naypyidaw on MRTV.

The leader of Myanmar’s ruling junta will hold talks with a number of armed ethnic groups in Naypyidaw today, its top military spokesperson said.

Gen. Zaw Min Tun, spokesperson and a junta minister, said Thursday in Naypyidaw that representative from 10 groups that have taken up arms against the military would meet Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, including an official from the Lahu Democratic Union, which had been divided over the invitation.

“The Lahu organization, which has been in trouble internally, will also join us,” Zaw Min Tun said, nothing that several of the group’s top officials would sit it out. “There will be 10 groups for everyone to meet. We will meet tomorrow.”

Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing invited the leaders of the groups, many of which had honored a ceasefire with the civilian government prior to the 2021 coup d’etat, in hope of building an equal and fully independent federal union and resolving the current political crisis.

Leaders and chairmen of three of the groups are scheduled to meet with military leaders while the rest will be made up of decision-making secretaries.

Zaw Min Tun said the 10 groups registered to attend included the United Wa State Party, National Democratic Alliance Army, Shan State Progressive Party, Arakan Liberation Party, the Democratic Karen Army, and New Mon State Party, among others. The Pa-O National Liberation Organization, which has not fought with the Tatmadaw for decades, was also invited. 

The talks have been boycotted by several major groups, including the Kachin Independence Organisation, Karenni National Progressive Party, Karen National Union, and Chin National Front. 

“The invitation for peace now, however, is limiting the participation of all stakeholders, and will result only in an unsuccessful endeavor to obtain a genuine peace and effectively ending armed conflict, and, therefore, we the KNU, will not be able to attend the event as it is not favorable for an exclusive dialogue,” a statement from Karen National Union Headquarters said. 

It’s a reversal from just two months ago when the junta dismissed talk of negotiations.

In a televised speech on Armed Forces Day in March, Min Aung Hlaing declared his already brutal crackdown would be more severe on dissident forces and threatened to “annihilate” coup opponents, saying his army would not engage with “terrorist organisations and their followers.”

More than 6,000 civilian homes have been set on fire by junta forces since the military seized power in a coup last year, mostly in areas where anti-regime resistance is strong. 

According to data from the independent research group Data for Myanmar, the Sagaing Division has borne the brunt of the damage from 165 areas across Myanmar since the Feb. 1, 2021 coup.

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